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When browsing workspace, I often stumble upon "HR is not your friend" meme, often bolded, and practically never followed by any explanation (see for example here: https://workplace.stackexchange.com/a/96977/64225) .

What is the origin of that meme and what is the explanation of it (if any)? I'm confused with such generalization, especially that it doesn't match my experiences. Such meme seems to ignore the fact that HR people are the same employees as others, and therefore, it is in their interest to represent the interest of the workers, and not the abstract company (sitting on the same horse). Most of them are not psychopaths as well, from my experience they've had less psychopathic traits as people from other departments (they are chosen for their soft skills after all).

Is this just an annoying meme, or it has at least some background?

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  • "practically never followed by any explanation" I had not actually opened the link to the example before I wrote my answer, but I did so now. What exactly do you mean by this statement? Richard has written about three paragraphs of explanation following that phrase. I also searched through all the other answers on this site containing that phrase, and could not find a single example that demonstrates what you have described.
    – Masked Man
    Mar 4 '18 at 17:56
  • @MaskedMan i think he means "beyond someone randoms on the internet's opinions"
    – bharal
    Mar 4 '18 at 18:17
  • @bharal What constitutes "explanation" according to you?
    – Masked Man
    Mar 4 '18 at 18:20
  • @MaskedMan it means i'm inferring that the OP wants to know more about it than just "some random person's opinions"
    – bharal
    Mar 4 '18 at 19:32
  • And what exactly is this "more" that you are looking for? Apparently my answer below is not good enough for you because I suppose that too is "just some random person's opinion"?
    – Masked Man
    Mar 4 '18 at 19:36
  • "Is this just an annoying meme, or it has at least some background?" - Yes.
    – David K
    Mar 5 '18 at 13:40
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"HR is not your friend." is not a "meme" that we invented here at Workplace.SE, as the most popular internet search can easily confirm.

Such meme seems to ignore the fact that HR people are the same employees as others, and therefore, it is in their interest to represent the interest of the workers, and not the abstract company (sitting on the same horse)

Empirical evidence suggests that the vast majority of employees have a strong preference for getting their salary/wages paid. The nice thing about being an employee is that you get paid for doing your job, and thus, it is in your best interest to do your job.

HR's job is to protect the company's interests, for which the company pays them. This doesn't mean HR never represent the employees' interests. The company's interests and the employees' interests are not always mutually exclusive, and they can frequently overlap. In those cases, of course, it would appear that the HR is representing the employees' interests.

However, I do agree that the choice of words has an unnecessary negative connotation. HR is not out there to get you. HR is not your friend, but HR is not your enemy either. The following choice of words would be more realistic and less controversial: "HR is just doing their job."

HR is not your career coach, HR is not a shoulder for you to cry on, HR is not your guardian angel. It is important that employees realize this before they go knocking at the doors of HR, so that they can have a realistic outlook on the expected outcome. Perhaps the choice of words "HR is not your friend" was deliberately done to get people to take the message seriously.

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  • "HR is not your career coach, HR is not a shoulder for you to cry on, HR is not your guardian angel" oh well, I thought it is exactly what they are expected to be. And fully in the interest of the company. Because unhappy worker is a problem to the company (performance lost etc.). I'd be tended to 'HR might be not your friend - in badly managed company' - but do the nightmare companies constitute the canonical answer? I have doubts... Therefore I ask... Mar 4 '18 at 23:01
  • @Danubian Sailor We are getting close to the No True Scotsman fallacy here. What I have described above is true of a typical company. Now if you counter that by saying any such company is a "nightmare company", then I cannot do anything more to convince you.
    – Masked Man
    Mar 5 '18 at 8:20
  • Maybe I should ask - a typical company where? For sure a typical company would be something fully different in Saudi Arabia and in Denmark... Mar 5 '18 at 22:57
  • In any company in the world, employees are paid to do a job, and not to do a political posturing on behalf of employees. There could certainly be exceptions, but their workplace practices would be company-specific, in other words, off-topic on our site.
    – Masked Man
    Mar 6 '18 at 12:29
  • What about "HR is not your union rep"?
    – Kevin
    Mar 15 '18 at 3:08

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